Panorama of Dunedin

Dunedin was originally and predominantly settled by Scots (Dùn Èideann is Scottish Gaelic for Edinburgh, both of which are derived from the older place name of Eidyn, now the capital of Scotland). Nowadays, it is a regional centre and the second-largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, located in the Otago region.


Dunedin is a university town, a cultural hub, and a city with a strong historic streak. It is a small city with a compact walkable city centre surrounded by hilly suburbs. It has easy access to beaches, wildlife attractions and areas of native forest.

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, it has a proud Scots heritage. It has as its heart a statue of the poet Robbie Burns and many of its streets carry the same name as streets in Edinburgh. Due to the gold rush in central Otago, Dunedin was the biggest and most prosperous city in New Zealand from 1865 to 1900, and many of its old buildings and character stem from that period. Because of history and geography, Dunedin is usually considered New Zealand's fourth major centre behind Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, despite being seventh in the population ranks.

Dunedin Baldwin Street steepest grade 1 in 2.86

Dunedin sits in a natural harbour, with the centre of the city on a relatively small area of flat land surrounded by suburbs on the steep hillsides. Some of its streets are very steep: Baldwin Street is claimed as being the steepest street in the world, a claim which is celebrated during the annual chocolate festival by rolling more than 40,000 Jaffas down it. (Jaffas are small, round sweets consisting of a soft chocolate centre with a hard covering of orange flavoured, red coloured confectionery and made at the local Cadbury factory and also exported to Australia).

It does get cold: many of the streets are iced over in winter, and every two or three years the city gets a snowfall.

These days, Dunedin is most well known for its University of Otago, the oldest and one of the best universities in New Zealand, and its 'scarfie' student culture. The university is the South Island's second largest employer and by far the biggest contributor to the Dunedin economy. Dunedin is a university town rather than just a town with a university since the student population of around 27,000 is nearly 23% of the 120,000 residents. A consequence of this is that the city is significantly quieter during the university summer holiday period (approx November to February), and that accommodation may be harder to find or more expensive during orientation week and university graduations, etc.

Dunedinites (the Dunedin people) are generally friendly, seemingly more friendly than in the bigger cities of NZ (and the bigger cities anywhere else in the world).

Visitor Information

i-SITE Dunedin Visitor Centre, 50 The Octagon,  +64 3 474-3300, e-mail: . Daily 08:45-17:00. Open 365 days a year, it provides extensive local and national information as well as a booking service for visitors and residents.

Get in

Dunedin, Otago Harbour, and Otago Peninsula

By plane

The terminal has a range of cafes, ATMs, and currency exchange. There is a pub serving some local beers and wines and a tapas style menu. There is more food and shopping before security, and since security checks are brisk at this small airport, you can plan to stay landside until your plane is ready.

Dunedin airport was built on the nearest piece of flat land that was big enough for the runway. Taxis and shuttle buses operate from just outside the terminal and are usually there when flights arrive. There is scheduled public transport to the airport. The fare for a shared shuttle is around $25-35 or $60-100 for a taxi to Dunedin. All of the major rental car operators also serve the airport.

By train

Dunedin Railway Station

The railway station is close to the centre of town (and is an architectural attraction as well as transport hub). There is no longer a regular long distance passenger train service, but some people arrive in the city by the local scenic trains. These are operated by the Taieri Gorge Railway, ☎ +64 3 477-4449, which run out as far as Middlemarch and Palmerston. A connecting bus service to or from Queenstown can be arranged.

By car

State Highway 1 passes through Dunedin. Allow 4.5 hr travel time from Christchurch and 2.5 hr from Invercargill. Be sure to get a good detailed map as soon as you can. Most hostels have very detailed maps for the central business district (CBD) with reasonable details for the outlying areas. Dunedin's urban roads can be very confusing with lots of one way streets, circles, and tight and winding hill routes.

By bus

There are several daily services from Christchurch, Invercargill, Wanaka and Queenstown. The major operators are Intercity, Atomic Shuttles, Wanaka-Connection and Knightrider. (which offers an evening service from Christchurch to Dunedin). nakedbus.com has competitive fares. The trip from (or to) Christchurch takes about 6.5 hr.

By ship

Port Chalmers with cruise ship docked

Cruise ships are an increasingly popular way to visit Dunedin. There are 80-90 visits each October to March shipping season. The Dunedin City Council provides free Wi-Fi at the port and runs a web page for cruise visitors. The two major cruise companies Carnival (Holland America, P&O, Princess) and Royal Caribbean both serve Dunedin. Most cruise ships dock at the deep water harbour Port Chalmers, 14 km northeast of Dunedin, 20-30 minutes drive from the city centre. You can travel direct by cruise ship shuttle bus for $10 one-way/$15 return. Alternatively, you can board the public Bus 13 Port Chalmers to City at the Port Chalmers turnaround, five minutes walk from ship side, for $5.20 one-way (free for New Zealand Gold Card holders) and a 20 min ride to the Octagon. You may catch the return Bus 14 City to Port Chalmers at the Countdown stop (opposite Cadbury World) on Cumberland near Lower Stuart. Taxis cost about $45 one-way.

Seasoned cruise ship travellers will be aware that tourism products marketed directly to cruise ship passengers are often more expensive, so arranging visits to Dunedin attractions and tours independently can save money.

By bike

Dunedin is surrounded by hills, so cycling from other places requires effort. Cyclists are banned from State Highway 1 as it approaches the city from both north and south. There are alternative routes for cyclists.

Get around

By foot

The city layout is focused on The Octagon, an eight-sided 'plaza' with a central carriageway. It hosts a few significant buildings, and a couple of bars and cafes, but for all intents and purposes it is a large bus stop and a roundabout.

The main retail area lies further north up George Street toward Dunedin North, and this could arguably be considered the city centre. Here you will find a larger range of shopping, some malls, cafes, etc. To a lesser there is some retail south along Princes Street and east along Lower Stuart Street from the Octagon. At the end of Lower Stuart Street, 400 metres from the Octagon, lies Anzac Square (actually a triangular area of public gardens) and Dunedin Railway Station and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Beyond that is an industrial area and the Otago harbour.

The street blocks in Dunedin are quite long, and walking from the Octagon past the university to the Botanic Gardens can take the best part of an hour. Always remember that Dunedin has a flatter area by the water, and then climbs steeply. So, the shorter route may not be the easiest one if you are going over the hills. Check the contours before setting out.

By bus

The Otago Regional Council's bus service is affordable: ☎ 0800 474 082. All buses are wheelchair friendly, about half are newish modern buses and half are cast-off from other cities. The regional council contracts several bus companies to operate the routes. Most drivers from any company will tell you where to find the right bus if you ask nicely, or you can call the council on 0800 474 082 (also free from cell phones), but only during office hours.

By bicycle

There is a recycling centre down by the north-east end of the docks (in Wickliffe Street) which generally has one or two reasonable-condition bicycles lying about for $10 apiece. Carefully add air (there's a service station due west back over the bridge) and oil and you're set to go. You will also need a skid-lid/stack-hat/helmet, which are generally unavailable second-hand for liability reasons, but can be had new for $20 from the KMart in Meridian, between George Street and Filleul Street. There is another recycling shop called "The Recover Store" at the Dunedin Landfill on Brighton Road, Green Island.

Dunedin's hills are extremely steep but the town centre is reasonably flat. There is an excellent flat ride out along the western shore of the Otago Peninsula to Harington Point, although it's a narrow road shared by lots of tour buses. A cycle track runs along of the industrial eastern shore of the harbour, about half way to Port Chalmers (busy highway the rest of the way).

If you like a bit of a hill-climb, ride out along North Road to the Organ Pipes, a collection of rapidly-cooled volcanic lava formed into vertical columnar basalt. The walk along a bush track up to the Pipes themselves is very scenic and well attended by small, harmless wildlife. The ride up along the ridge of the Peninsula to Lanarch Castle is also good high-energy exercise.

If you like pushing a bike up a hill because it's too steep, dive off North Road onto Norwood Street, or cross to the east side of the Peninsula, or head straight up the hill behind The Octagon past the Beverly-Begg Observatory to suburbs with a view like Roslyn.


Free sights

Inside Dunedin Railway Station
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, with Railway Station (left background)
Robert Burns Statue in the Octagon
Knox Church


Cadbury factory in Dunedin downtown
Speights brewery
Heart of the Lake Pavilion and entrance hall in Dunedin Chinese Garden

Out of town

Yellow-eyed penguin family, Otago Peninsula
Taiaroa Head Lighthouse and spotted shag colony (look in cave)
  • The Royal Albatross colony, at Taiaroa Head is the only mainland albatross nesting site in the world. It is an hour's drive along the western coast of Otago Peninsula on a road that skirts the water for most of its length without any guardrail. In places, the city buses which frequent the road are wider than the lanes (the local traffic is used to this, and drives very carefully), so if you don't trust your driving reflexes, take a coach instead. Albatrosses may be seen during the summer months, as well as other wildlife at all times of the year. Guided tours of the colony and the old fortifications on and under the headland are conducted daily.
  • Armstrong Disappearing Gun, End of the peninsula near the Albatross colony. All hours. This Armstrong Disappearing Gun was installed in May 1889 and was recommissioned during World War II. It is still in its original gun pit. Coastal fortifications were constructed in New Zealand in two main waves. The first wave occurred around 1885 and was a response to fears of an attack by Russia. The second wave occurred during World War II and was due to fears of invasion by the Japanese. The fortifications were built from British designs adapted to New Zealand conditions. Free.
  • Larnach Castle. Also on the peninsula, billed as "the only castle" in New Zealand, it's very pretty but technically only a manor house. There is another (ruined, but being restored) building in the same predicament called Cargill's Castle in the southern suburbs of Dunedin. Lanarch Castle has a rich and interesting but rather unhappy history.


A house on Baldwin St
St. Clair Beach


The University of Otago (Māori: 'Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo') is internationally recognised and New Zealand's oldest university. It had over 21,000 students enrolled during 2011.

The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it employs.

The Otago Polytechnic focuses on skills based, technical education and occupational training, offering a range of New Zealand accredited degrees, diplomas and certificates in many areas of interest

The students in Dunedin are referred to as scarfies and are well know throughout New Zealand for their antics. Much of the student accommodation in Dunedin is located in close proximity to the University in old houses known as 'flats'. The majority of the houses in North Dunedin around the university are student flats, creating a student 'ghetto'. Dunedin is known for having a tightly woven active student culture with many well known traditions, ranging from the toga party for first years to the infamous Hyde Street keg race.


The main industry sectors contributing to Dunedin's economy are property services, education, business services, health services and food manufacturing. Communication, Government administration and tourism are all big industries.

Dunedin's main employers (employing more than 2000 people) are the University of Otago and the Otago District Health Board.

Other large employers are the Dunedin City Council and Cadbury Confectionery Ltd.


Most Dunedin shopping is on George Street north of the Octagon, centred around the Meridian/Golden Centre/Wall Street mall complex. There are also a number of souvenir shops near the octagon.


For the freshest local organic produce, including fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread, cheese, check out the Farmer's Market. Held at the railway station Sa 08:0012:30, it is a Dunedin institution and one of the best places to try local food. It has delicious delicacies such as crepes (including gluten free), the deservedly famous "bacon buttie" (far corner from the Railway Station, look for the crowd), whitebait fritters, and baking as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. It's rated as one of the best farmers markets in New Zealand.

One Dunedin favourite is the cheese roll - a mixture of grated cheese, onion and soup mix in a toasted rolled slice of bread, a speciality of the southern part of the South Island, available in cafes.

Lower Stuart Street, around the Octagon and the northern part of central George Street (including the side streets) have the majority of Dunedin's restaurants. There are also a few interesting places on Albany Street, which runs across the south of the University of Otago. There is a full range of ethnic cuisine available, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Turkish, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino and Indian.


Fish and chips are the classic cheap eats: the minimum serve of chips usually costs around $1.50 and will fill you up. Best Cafe on Lower Stuart Street is often rated as one of the best in town. Being a student town, you can expect to find some very cheap take-away food near the university campus: you will pay $3.50-4.00 for a teriyaki chicken riceball from many sushi stores, the Flying Squid (Squiddies) on Albany Street sells hearty burgers for $3.50 at lunch time, and you can get a decent sub sandwich from Frankly Sandwiches in the University's 'link' (corner of Albany and Cumberland Street) for around $5.

Hot kumara chips are made from a sweet-potato variant and are typically priced at about double the cost of potato chips.

Cones of ice cream sell for reasonable prices at many places, including little delis and general stores at places like MacAndrew Bay (e.g. $2.50 for a giant ice-cream at the Rob Roy on the corner of George and Albany St).

McDonalds is at 232 George Street, with an internet cafe is attached. A second McDonalds, and a variety of fast food outlets, can be found in North Dunedin near the end of the one-way going north (Great King Street - "Fatty Alley"), and even more fast food places are located on the way to South Dunedin on Anderson's Bay Road.

The Friday bakery in Roslyn village is recommended; it is open only on Friday mornings, and hungry, in-the-know locals tend to clear it out of its stock of delicious baked pastries and meat pies rather quickly.




Dunedin is known for its vibrant nightlife, mainly stemming from its large student population. It is also home to some well known beer breweries, Speights, Emersons and to a lesser extent Green Man. There is also a strong coffee culture with a number of good cafes.


Local Beer

Speights was founded in Dunedin in 1876 and is now a national brand associated with Dunedin and the southern region of New Zealand. It is still brewed at the Dunedin location and brewery tours are available. The Speights brewery also makes Speight's Old Dark, and the Speights Craft Range of beer.

Emerson's Brewery Limited is a microbrewery located in Dunedin, New Zealand established in 1993. It has won numerous Australian and New Zealand awards and it is well appreciated by locals. Good places to find it on tap include Albar on Lower Stuart street and Tonic on Princess street. Riggers (plastic 1.25 L bottles) of Emersons can also be bought at Castle McAdams on Lower Stuart Street.

Green Man Brewery founded in 2006 specializes in batch-brewed organic beers brewed according to the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516.


The majority of the bars are located in and around the Ocatgon and Lower Stuart street, with a few popular student bars in North Dunedin. There is a strip of bars along the east side of the Octagon with tables outside, which all fill up when the weather allows. A jug of ale costs about $10.





Serviced Apartments


Stay safe

The city is quite safe, but try to walk in a group on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. People can get excessively inebriated and occasionally look to cause trouble. Exercise the same caution and common sense that you would in any other western city. The police station is in Great King Street, next to Countdown, the supermarket.


Dunedin Public Library has free Internet terminals and Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is also available in the Octagon.

Otherwise, Internet access is available at various cafes for a fee.



Go next

Routes through Dunedin

Oamaru Blueskin Bay  N  S  Gore Milton

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 07, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.